Back in April, stun gun manufacturer Taser International announced a major rebranding initiative. The company changed its name to Axon Enterprise and revealed it would be focusing on new surveillance products. Axon, which has been selling body and dash cameras to police agencies for more than a decade, said in a statement earlier this year that surveillance technology and related services had the potential to transform policing as we know it.
On Sept. 21, 2017, leaked reports of a survey to law enforcement shed some light on what that future may be like. According to The Intercept, Axon “solicited naming ideas for its provisionally titled Public Evidence Product.” This product would encourage citizens to upload smartphone videos of suspicious activity, crimes or police actions to the company’s Evidence.com cloud-based storage platform. It would then use deep learning algorithms, Axon claims, to “automate paperwork” and “anticipate criminal activity.”
The company has been trying to position the product as a way for citizens to monitor both police and their fellow citizens. Some activists, however, say this is a Pandora’s box of potential civil rights abuses. “When police body cameras were initially established, it was because citizens were clamoring for police accountability,” Shahid Buttar, director of grassroots advocacy with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Intercept. “But we’ve seen how cameras have been more useful for police investigations than for accountability. This product realizes those dangers and takes them to a new dystopian level by crowdsourcing the collection of evidence and turning it over to law enforcement.”
Police have sometimes been less than reliable with body cam (and dash cam) footage, with instances abound of cameras being turned off, audio not working, or video being allegedly altered. There is plenty of room for concern that an abundance of video could be used selectively to frame people for crimes, or that video could be withheld that could exonerate those charged.
Perhaps the biggest issue, however, is that this mass surveillance will be held in the hands of a private company. Axon, in a follow up to The Intercept’s original article, insisted that law enforcement, not the company, would own the data. Yet it also insisted that the product itself was not complete and that not all terms, conditions and functions were fully hashed out.
If you or a loved one is being charged with a criminal offense in New Jersey for which there may be video evidence that could be used against you, it is urgent that you speak with an attorney right away. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.